Jets Trade Targets: Nikolai Kulemin


As the trade deadline approaches, the Jets are flirting with a Division Title. Though the focus is still building from within, the team sits in a position to buy for a playoff birth and even a banner raising come October. Sure it’s the South East Division Champion banner, but thanks to realignment, our kids won’t know that isn’t impressive. 

In the next couple weeks, we’ll trot out some ideas for trade targets for the Jets in the hopes of being able to say ‘I told you so’ later on. First up, Nikolai Kulemin.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

News hit twitter with frustrated fingers this morning that Colton Orr had taken Kulemin’s wing in Leafs practice next to Grabovski and MacArthur. Where was Kulemin? Fourth line, of course. The narrative is that he’s underperforming, that he’s not scoring, and needs a shake up. At least, that’s the narrative coming out of coach Carlyle’s mouth.

In truth, Kulemin has simply been used in a very challenging role and performed as well as can be expected. His shooting % has been roughly half his career average for two-seasons running, and his ice time and especially offensive ice time have had a lot to do with it. Let’s look at some advanced usage, possession, and territorial numbers along side his scoring

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below


Nikolai Kulemin

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below




Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

82-Gm Pace

5×5 Even Strength Only

% Shifts started in Off Zone

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below



Advertisement - Continue Reading Below


% Shifts ending in Off Zone

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below



Advertisement - Continue Reading Below


Quality of competition




Relative Corsi




TOI (mins)










Pts/60 (Team rank)

2.30 (1st)

1.40 (9th)

2.12 (5th)


Individual Shooting %




Powerplay TOI Total (mins)





PP Pts / 60 (Team rank)

3.34 (5th)

5.04 (2nd)


Now, there is a lot of data in this chart, and I apologize for the overload. But Kulemin in particular has a complicated story to tell, quantitatively speaking.

First, his best scoring season came in 2010/11 with a high shooting percentage and a fair amount of powerplay time on the second unit (ranking 6th among forwards on the team). His quality of competition was the lowest he’d faced since his rookie season, and his corsi relative to the rest of his team (corsi on – corsi off) was excellent in tandem. The next year (2011/12), his shooting % dropped, his ice time dropped, and his powerplay time dried up. It’s hard to tell if the coach benched him for not scoring, or he stopped scoring because of a new assignment. Nevertheless, his zone starts and relative corsi remain positive against similar opposition. Then there’s a coaching change.

This season, Kulemin is starting every shift in a ditch. His role is decidedly defensive with the second lowest rate of offensive zone starts on the team, playing the hardest competition alongside Grabovski, and now getting no powerplay time. His shooting % remains low, and his corsi has dropped off a cliff, though we can see the reasons pretty clearly. And yet, still Kulemin is on pace for over 35 points at 5-on-5 even strength. He is, in fact, 4th in forward scoring at 5-on-5.

Why is he available?

I honestly don’t know how a coach could be unhappy about this season. Cam Charron wrote this morning on Leafs Nation about Kulemin and had a similar conclusion. That Carlyle is unhappy with his scoring is puzzling and either speaks to a lack of awareness for the assignment he himself has given Kulemin, and/or a lack of awareness for the points Kulemin is actually putting up. His cap hit is reasonable at 2.8mil and his term is limited – becoming and UFA after 2013/14.

What does he do for the Jets?

Kulemin is a big body (6’2", 230lbs), in his prime at 26, and has averaged more than 30 points/82 games in each of his four seasons before this one. He’s been more healthy than most, and showed the talent to score over a point per game in Russia this year playing with Malkin. He’s also been a very successful defensive forward in recent memory. Last season, he significantly reduced the corsi % (shot attempts for – shot attempts against) of notables such as Malkin and Neal, Ovechkin, and our own Blake Wheeler when he lined up against them. He’s struggled more this season at this, though still had success shutting down the Bruins top line and Ovie.

The Jets began the season with Ponikarovsky – a very similar player in many respects – and let him go quickly for reasons I’m still not clear on. Perhaps the Jets don’t want to replay the experiment. Still, forward depth is a clear issue for the Jets this season, and James Wright is showing himself to be a liability after being moved up the roster. His current line mates of Antropov and Wellwood both have corsi% above 50 without him, and below 40% with him on the wing.

The simple truth is that the Jets have a hole on their third line LW that they have been unable to fill so far. Kulemin may be a perfect fit. He also kills penalties and is likely at least a serviceable powerplay forward given his past. Both units could stand some help for Winnipeg, in spite of the PK’s very impressive stretch of success.

What’s the cost?

All the rumour mills are saying that trade costs are extremely high right now. At the same time, Ponikarovky was had for a 4th and a 7th in 2014’s more shallow draft. This trade works best if the Leafs decide to sell at the deadline, leaving the door open to a trade including a 2nd or 3rd from 2014, alongside a B or C level propsect or role player. If the Leafs decide to simply re-tool, they may have interest in right-handed puck moving defenceman to allow them to sell Liles. In that case, Paul Postma seems like a likely piece in a trade – perhaps combined with a role player. We’ll throw in a back rub. Nonis looked tense on Saturday night. 


*Note: I originally published this article saying Kulemin shut down the Ladd-Little-Wheeler line this season. Unforunately, I didn’t carry the one (i.e. read a table correctly) and got it backward. That line did very well against Kulemin this year. Apologies. Apologies all around.

  • Travis Hrubeniuk

    As a guy who has followed the Leafs for years, I would love to see Kulemin in a Jets uniform. He would be a great asset on a penalty kill that has struggled at times, and could also serve some time on the power play. I wouldn’t be willing to give too much away for him alone, but I could handle losing Postma or Clitsome.

  • Kevin McCartney

    Thanks BCapp! I started with a 48-game pace, changed the title of the column, and I guess didn’t change the stats. Despite tables being what I do for a living, I couldn’t make them work for me in this article! Who edits the editors, right? I think I’m going to healthy scratch myself for the day.

    My foibles aside, look how much better Kulemin is than I even made him seem! Why does Carlyle not like this guy?!